Split Infinitives

I've never really understood what constitutes a split infinitive. What makes a phrase an 'Infinitive' and why shouldn't one split it?

'infinitive' isn't really a phrase; it's the basic form of a verb, the name of the verb if you like. For example 'to read', 'to eat', 'to play', 'to work' . Sometimes in a sentence you will use the infinitive form of a verb - eg 'I love to read', I began to play' etc. If you 'split' the infinitive, then you put another word/words between the 'to' and the other bit of the infinitive - eg 'I decided to slowly cross the road' (You've split up 'to cross'). Another example: 'I began to angrily gather my books'. (You've split up 'to gather').
01 October 2011
Now, as to why you shouldn't split an infinitive - well, I don't really know - I think it's thought to make your writing a bit clumsy. It's quite an old rule/guideline; it was around when I was at school and before! But nowadays, as with lots in English, I don't think it's such a hard and fast rule. If you want to avoid splitting infinitives, you can - eg in my example, ' I began angrily to gather my books'. But I think, personally, that there are more important things to concentrate on if you are trying to make your work accurate and 'good' - eg other grammar points, correct spellings etc.
01 October 2011
So if an Infinitive isn't a phrase but a type of word how can you split it? "Read" isn't an infinitive but "To read" is? Once you have two words surely that's a phrase not a verb?
03 October 2011
That is correct that 'read' isn't an infinitive, but 'to read' is. As I said further up, the infinitive is sort of the name of the verb. There's the verb 'to play', the verb 'to like' etc etc. The name of the verb isn't just 'read'. You use the word 'read' when you are forming the verb - eg 'I read', 'he read'. To take your other point, just because you have two words, as in 'to play', that doesn't make it a phrase. I'd say a phrase is a collection of words - eg 'crashing into a fence', 'before the test', 'broken into lots of pieces'. A phrase could sometimes be only just more than an infinitive, eg I'd say that 'to smile bravely' would be a phrase, but I'd say that just 'to smile' wouldn't be a phrase.
03 October 2011
I think to go back to your original point, the question you were wanting answered was 'Why can't you split 'to play' or 'to read' ? And really it doesn't matter if 'to read' or 'to play' is a phrase or not; you just wanted to know why you shouldn't split it. Please get back to me if you want to argue or discuss further!
03 October 2011
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Similar questions


Complete the blanks with the Past Simple, Past Progressive, Past Perfect Simple or Past Perfect Progressive of the verbs in brackets.

1) Last year I .....(go) on an exciting safari holiday in Namibia with my husband. 2) I remember it ....(rain) continously for several days in Brussels before we ....(leave), so I couldn't wait to board the plane which ....(head) for sunnier climes. 3) Our safari holiday ....(be) unique in that, unlike many other safari holidays, the aim was not just to show a bunch of tourists some wild animals; while on holiday we would be volunteering at a conservation centre. 4) Our first night in the bush, while the biologists ....(entertain) everyone with tales, I ....(sit) back and ....(gaze) at the patterns made by the stars. 5) At one stage I ....(get) up to stretch when all of a sudden I ....(see) a huge creature nestled on my husband's shoulder; I ....(let) out an embarrassing squek of fear. 6) Apparently it was just a stick insect. Not like any stick insect I ....(ever/see); it was as big as my forearm. 7) The next day we ....(set) off early; our task was to make a note of any wildlife we saw. 8) While we .... (walk) through the thick forest, we ....(hear) birds and monkeys chattering in the trees. However after three hours, the novelty ....(wear) off, and I was exhausted. 9) And then I ....(see) it. A deer ....(stand) under a tree just a few metres away from me; I proudly ....(make) a note on my pad. 10) The next day, while we ....(travel) to a nearby village, we ....(spot) a herd of elephants crossing the road. 11) All too quickly our two weeks in Namibia ....(draw) to a close and we .... (find) ourselves back at home. 12) Altough we were a little sad, we both felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction as we ....(not only/visit) a beautiful part of the world, but we ....(also/make) our own small positive contribution.

Active verb definition

How do you know if a verb is active?

Verbs are either ‘active’ or ‘passive’ according to whether the subject of the sentence is doing the action or whether they are having it done to them.  An active verb is a word that basically shows an action within a sentence. In an active sentence, the subject of the sentence is the thing or the person carrying out the action (see the below examples). Whereas, in a passive sentence, the thing being acted upon is the subject of the sentence. So active verbs are those verbs, in sentences, which are being done by the subject of the sentence. All verbs are doing words and involve action, but examples of ‘active verbs’ depend on whether the thing being done, (cleaning, eating etcetera), is being done by the subject of the sentence or not.

Examples of Active Verbs

Charlotte talks for an incredibly long time. The active verb here would be talks; as talking is something that Charlotte can do. Remember, active verbs express something that a person, animal, or object can do. That’s why they are named Action verbs Jack cleaned the house. The verb To Clean is active here, (cleaned) because the subject of the sentence ‘Jack’ is doing the cleaning. The house was cleaned by Jack. In this sentence, the verb ‘To Clean’ is passive because the subject of the sentence, the house, is being cleaned. My parents bought a house. The verb is active, the subject (my parents) is doing the action of ‘buying'.   “Sally brushed the dog” Here “brushed” is an active verb. Compare this with “The dog was brushed by Sally” – where “was brushed” is a passive verb.

What is the active voice?
When should you use the active and passive voice?

What is the difference between active and passive verbs?

There are 2 types of sentences - active and passive. All verbs have an active and passive voice. Where active verbs detail the action ie: The teacher taught the lesson. The passive sentence would read: The students are taught the lesson. The passive voice is used when we want to emphasize the action (the verb) and the object of a sentence rather than the subject. Basically it means when someone is not physically doing anything! For example,  Active:

  • I am building a house.
  • You are driving the car.
  • Bill is eating his dinner
  • Mary is playing the game.
  • Jill washed the dishes
  • Katie carried her bag


  • The house was built by me.
  • The car was driven by you.
  • The dinner was eaten by Bill.
  • The game was played by Mary.
  • The dishes were washed by Jill
  • The bag was carried by Katie

  Do you have any other examples of active or passive verbs? Leave them in the comments and we will add them to the list!